By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4)– Lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase the penalty for certain crimes against the elderly and at-risk adults. The family of one victim is fighting for tougher laws.

(credit: CBS)

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While testifying at the state Capitol, Deborah Hogfeldt told lawmakers the signs were there.

“We just couldn’t put the dots together,” she said.

Deborah Hogfeldt (credit: CBS)

Her 36-year-old daughter Julie, non-verbal and developmentally delayed, was living with a caretaker but something was wrong.

“You know there’s a lot of unknowns. We don’t know if this was something… we can only surmise, was this ongoing? was this a one-time?” Hogfeldt said.

(credit: Deborah Hogfeldt)

Two years ago, a realtor found Julie locked in a crawl space. She had only a mattress on the floor.

“She was in such trauma, the fear in her eye,” she said.

(credit: Deborah Hogfeldt)

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The circumstances were severe but getting charges to match proved difficult.

“She couldn’t testify to what she endured into this lock space she couldn’t testify to how long how often how miserable,” Hogfeldt said.

(credit: Deborah Hogfeldt)

Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat representing Boulder County, is now sponsoring a bill that would change that.

(credit: CBS)

“When we have people locked in crawl spaces, when they are sent on airplanes to another state and not left with anyone to go to, there should be a law against that,” he said.

His bill would make false imprisonment and abandoning an at risk person, a crime.

(credit: CBS)

“These laws are not serious enough right now for our prosecutors to take the time and effort to follow up on these cases,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

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Hogfeldt hopes her story will bring light to an issue that until now she says has had little, “This kind of behavior is hidden.”

Karen Morfitt